Blessed Little Bell
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one that brings peace."
He just didn't get it.
If she takes something, it's to give it to someone else, or to sell to a shop, thereafter using the money to better another person's life.
She always had that look when she dealt with the mortals, too. Issun didn't understand what it meant. When she eyed a human, it was with...
...she seemed weary-eyed, but she also smiled as gently as a wolf could.
His journey started out as the chance to steal all the Celestial Brush techniques for himself. Truth be told, he was learning... but the one he was trying to steal from was actually mentoring him in those very techniques as she found them. Whenever they found time, they would sit down and, over a bite to eat, practice his growing abilities with the Celestial Brush.
She was calm and kind to the mortals, but nothing but torment to demons that dared to invade the land. If a hostile demon even looked at her or a mortal, it was a death sentence.
He found himself, at least in the beginning, trying to stay as detached from the white wolf as he could... but something happened as time progressed and he slowly grew better with the brush.
Once quick to anger with the dumb furball, Issun slowly found himself harder and harder pressed to show any semblance of irritation with her. Not that it bothered him, of course. He didn't like being angry. It reminded him of home.
In the beginning, if he'd angered her in any way, they'd go without speaking for a while before acting as if nothing had happened. Now, if he angered her, he'd still be quiet, though it was because of the immense guilt he'd feel.
He didn't like her being angry, either.
Fortunately, Amaterasu never stayed angry with him for long. She rarely stayed angry with any mortal for more than a few minutes. There was something about them to her, he decided, that made it almost impossible to stay mad at man. Perhaps it was her divine nature? He didn't know.
That's not to say that she wasn't above teasing any mortal that irritated her. She would sometimes hide something that they owned in plain sight and then watch, though she would always find a way to make sure that what she hid wasn't super important or an heirloom.
The day after the Kamiki Festival was a special day for many people, though Amaterasu had no knowledge of it. All that mattered was the festival itself at the time. Issun wanted to party, and Amaterasu wanted to ensure that the village was totally safe. And maybe rest.
When they separated for the evening, however, Issun remembered what the next day would bring: A still fairly new holiday that Issun was never able to celebrate with anyone.
"She never keeps any treasures that she finds," he muttered. "Then again, she did just kick Orochi's butt. Maybe I should get her a celebratory gift."
He nodded, and then smiled.
"Yeah! I'll... I'll get her a gift. If she wants to sell it, fine. See if I care."
He stretched his little body out, and started looking around at the stands that dotted up around Kamiki for the festival.
Whenever she approached people in Kamiki before she re-killed Orochi, it was often Issun people paid mind to, not her. Well, perhaps she'd get a few words from people, and there were one or two folks that would talk to her, but to everyone else, she was a white wolf.
Now that Orochi was dead again, however, and Susano claimed that it was only with her help that he triumphed (when, in reality, it was only with his help that she triumphed), she was offered the praise and love she would have enjoyed as Shiranui had only he survived his battle.
To Issun's dismay, everybody seemed to have a gift for her. He sighed.
"Figures," he said to himself. "The day I decide I want to do something nice for furball, and everybody else's got the same idea."
He heard them sing her praises, and he saw her smile and nod at them, her way of saying, "Think nothing of it."
She paid no mind to her tiny friend while she visited with the mortals she'd worked so hard to protect. There was more to her body now than the divine markings. A long gash along her side was dressed by Mrs. Orange, and her fur was matted with dirt. Under her fur, there was surely bruising, as well.
She's a tough Goddess, though. She'd get her rest tonight and tomorrow, and then she'd be good as new. She always healed quickly.
Issun shivered to himself, wondering what would've happened to the world had she fallen to Orochi. What would've happened to Kamiki? What would've happened to him?
Doom was the simple answer, but he didn't care what happened to himself. A world where she died fighting the darkness is not something he would have wanted to be part of. No, he'd want to be with her again, where he felt safe.
He shook his head.
"C'mon, Ammy got bit by Orochi and didn't even flinch. Darkness always succumbs to light and all that... now, presents! Gotta think of something she'll like..."
Food? No, she's always got something to eat. Issun knew. She kept him fed, anyway.
Sake? No, she's not Kasugami. She never drank a drop of anything other than water as long as he'd known her.
Jewlery? She's a wolf.
Money? She's a Goddess.
Pottery? Same argument as the jewlery.
"Gah, this is hard..."
He wracked his brain trying to think of something to give her for the special occasion, but nothing came to mind. He sighed to himself.
"C'mon... there's gotta be something she could possibly like!"
What about a paint brush? She's a Brush God, and... and surely she needs new equipment!
Yeah, a brush! She's already got her own Celestial Brush, and this one won't be as good as that, but it'll be something she can use to paint with on her down time and she's a wolf.
He sighed and slumped over, dejected.
"Being nice is hard," he muttered. He paused for a beat, and then threw his arms out as he walked. "And now I'm talking to myself. Great."
What do you get someone that has no real desire or need for, well, anything? Amaterasu, in the time he's known her, had more money one day than he'd ever seen in his lifetime, and then was dirt poor on the next day, having spent all that money on those around her.
He'd promised himself, after she blew through 150,000 yen on an entire town's beggar population, to keep watch over her money. There was one thing she was never able to do, and that was say "no" to a mortal in need. She always helped. Whether her help meant ensuring a town's cherry blossoms were in bloom or if it meant simply comforting someone that was feeling down, she'd do it without hesitation. If someone was desperate enough to have asked her for money, she'd offer money.
He was working on keeping her finances under control, but he's an inch-high artist and she's a divine wolf. Needless to say, he could only do so much. She may need a little money if she's ever hurt, and Issun, though he prided himself on being a master of Rejuvenation and a wandering artist, only had so much money to his name.
If only I could tie a bell to her wallet...
He lit up. A bell! It's simple, yet it could be so pretty if only he could find a nice one.
"A bell... Yeah, that'll work!"
So the little bug set about trying to find a merchant that happened to have a small bell for sale.
He would tell you that it was hard work. He had to listen to a merchant's lamenting that Orochi was dead, for now he could no longer do his "End of the world" sale (a complaint to which Issun promised he was lucky Amaterasu did not hear), and he didn't even have a bell Issun could buy. When he stopped to ask a man if he knew where to find a bell for sale, Issun found himself stuck listening to the man (who was apparently insane) going on about how a doctor in Kusa Village was secretly a madman that trained a somnambulist to murder for him.
For a festival, it sure wasn't the little one's night.
"I'm looking for a bell... You'd think I was looking for a kidney."
He found himself going from merchant stand to merchant stand, trying and failing to find anything of the sort. After looking for a few hours, he slumped down in front of Sakuya's Tree.
He should've known he'd never be able to get her something for...
He was too small, too sour... he should've known.
Just as he was about to give up on the chore he'd given himself, and just meet up with Ammy as planned for the next day (which she would still spend resting due to injuries), the scent of cherry blossoms intensified.
When he looked behind him, he saw her. Sakuya. Those curves always brought a smile to his face.
"Hello, little bug."
That smile quickly vanished. "C'mon, can't you call me Issun tonight? I. Am. Not. A. Bug."
He had no energy to argue with her. She ignored his words, as she always did, and sat beside him.
"Why are you here, bug? The festival is back in the village."
"I don't care about the stupid festival. I've spent the entire thing so far trying to find a merchant that sells something nice, but nobody has it."
"What is that 'something nice' you are looking for?"
He started playing around with his collar. "It's a bell," he said. "A small bell."
He saw Sakuya smile, and she looked out at the village.
"Why do you need a small bell?"
He was silent at first. Something about it felt embarassing. Here he was, the magnificent Issun, wandering artist and treasure hunting extraordinaire... and he was getting a present for his...
"That's none of your business," he said, heat building up in his cheeks. He was thankful Sakuya couldn't see his little face.
She couldn't, could she?
"It wouldn't have anything to do with tomorrow's holiday, would it?"
Now he was blushing so hard that he was sure she'd be able to see it from Kusa.
Before he could finish his thought, Sakuya held out a hand. In it was a small silver bell on a length of string. He almost couldn't contain his relief. He cleared his throat.
"Where'd you find that, Sakuya?"
"It's only a bell. There were many adorning my branches five years ago. Don't you remember?"
"Yeah, I remember... but why'd you keep one?"
"I kept a few. I enjoy them, that is all. I will give this one to you, little bug. I find it helps keep demons at bay. Eh... you can carry it, can't you?"
He puffed up his chest. "What're you talkin' about? Of course I can carry it! I'll have you know I was the one that picked up the jug of sake Kushi dropped at Orochi's place!"
He probably would've continued boasting about his incredible strength, had Sakuya not already set the bell beside him and vanished.
He sighed despite himself, and lifted the bell.
"Thanks, Sakuya. She'll like this. Surely she will."
The rest of the festival came and went, with neither Issun nor Amaterasu meeting up during it. Knowing the furball, she was probably still trying to help people, in spite of her wounds, during the entire thing.
He found her again at the viewing platform, overlooking the village as its festivities slowed down. She'd been offered many homes to sleep in, surely, but she chose the platform.
For the first time that night, she saw Issun approaching her, and she smiled.
Suddenly, the feelings of anxiety Issun felt when talking with Sakuya returned. Amaterasu, sensing the change in his demeanor, tilted her head and eyed him with concern.
"Hi, Ammy," he said. "I, uhh... I got something... for... you," he finished lamely.
She let out an aroo? and eyed him curiously. He approached with the bell, and set it down before her snout. She sniffed it, blinked, and then looked at him, curiosity and gratitude mixed in her face.
He cleared his throat. "See, you've been gone for a hundred years, right?"
The wolf nodded.
"Well, things can happen quickly in a hundred years."
"One of the things that happened was... well, there's a new holiday, and it takes place the day after the festival. I couldn't wait, so I... well, you know."
"Right, the new holiday. It's called, uhh..."
He cleared his throat again, and then squeaked out, "Mother's Day."
She lay down with her head between her front paws, and eyed him, willing him to continue.
"On that day," he said. "We honor our... mothers."
Where did that lump in his throat come from?
"See, I never got to celebrate it. I- I didn't know my Mom. All I have is my stupid Grandfather."
Hold it back, Issun... what grown man cries?
"...and I... well, wanted to try... it."
He tried to make wiping his eyes look natural, but he couldn't fool the Sun Goddess. She batted him towards her with her paw, and he protested. He tried to look angry, but the worried look on her face melted his heart. So, instead he tried to assure her he was okay.
"I'm alright, Furball! Really, I'm fine! The-there's no need for this..."
She would have none of it. Since she met him, Issun had demonstrated a sharp tongue, flirtatious attitude, and blunt perspective when it came to socialization. She had never once, however, seen him so much as sniffle. Her friend was sad and she wanted to help, and Issun would tell you that there is absolutely no use in trying to argue with a God.
He felt the tears start to run down his face, and he began to sob in spite of himself. He buried his face in her fur at her invitation, and she held her head against him as he cried.
"...I couldn't think of anything y-you might like," he said between sobs. "I-I just..."
He cried harder into her fur. C'mon, you hate crybabies and now you are a crybaby? Issun decided at that moment that he hated Karma, too.
"I hate crying," he sobbed.
He also hated crying.
Amaterasu gently nuzzled him while he wept. He could swear he heard her whimpering.
Great, now he got Furball to cry, too!
"Y'know why I left home?" he asked, pulling his face out of her fur to breathe. "It s-seemed like everyone had a pa-parent or guardian that said things like, 'I'm proud of you', or 'I love you.'"
He tried to hold back another sob, which in turn only made him sob more.
"I never had that," he said. "All I had was my dumb Grandpa... and I was never good enough. "That's some terrible artwork, Issun. What kind of sketch is that? You'll never make an artist at this rate, bug..." I just..."
He wiped his eyes, and the tears were only replaced by more. "I just want someone to be proud of me for a change. I want someone to say, 'I love you, Issun.' I never had a mother before... a-and when I'm with you, I feel like that changes..."
He trailed off when he noticed it. He listened closely to the whimpering coming from the wolf.
Wait a sec... she wasn't crying with him. She was... she was humming to him!
The Sun Goddess was humming to him, trying to calm him down. He couldn't tell at first, because a wolf can only hum so well, but now... he could hear it, and then some.
He began to become aware of the calm, serene voice humming softly to him in his head.
Though the tears kept leaking from his eyes and his breathing was still shaky, he was no longer sobbing openly. She kept holding him.
"D-do you like the gift?" he asked. He felt her nod, and she nuzzled him again.
Thank you for the wonderful gift. I love you, Issun.
It was that same voice that was humming in his mind. He turned to be face-to-face with the wolf, and saw her knowing smile.
She gently nudged at him with her muzzle, and he sat with his back to her chest.
And I am very proud of you.
She kept humming to Issun as he continued to weep. He rested his head against her paw, and she gently lay her head down, shielding him from any cold breeze with the caress of her warm fur.
He'd never felt this kind of comfort with someone before, especially a wolf. It was new to him. Being held close by a mother instead of being chastized by a grandfather... it made his eyelids heavy. Hearing her shush him while she gently hummed slowed the crying, until it had stopped.
All he felt after that was warmth as Okami Amaterasu gradually lulled him to sleep.
"Good night, Mother," he whispered. He could feel her smile, which made him happy. "I'll do something special for you tomorrow."
Issun did not know at the time, but he'd already done plenty for the great Okami. Whenever she wore the bell around her neck, no demon would draw near. For this safety when she was in danger, she referred to it as her blessed little bell, and she referred to Issun as her blessed little artist.
Issun, however, preferred a few names for Amaterasu. She was Ammy when they were exploring, and Furball when she busted his chops.
For her kindness when he was sad, her mentoring in skills he struggled with, and her all-around love for the little one, however, she was that which Issun never had. Her third nickname was Mom.
When nobody else was around, of course.
One year passed before all evil was eradicated from Nippon.
One year passed before Issun found himself re-uniting a mother and son.
One year passed before Issun laid eyes upon the Goddess he prayed to every day again.
One year passed before he made good on his promise to go to the Celestial Plain.
One year passed before he saw Amaterasu shed tears.
Though Issun could understand animals, he decided that what he was observing was a family moment, and so, as much as he wanted to say hello to Amaterasu again, he decided to wait until she was done nuzzling her child before he acted.
She surprised him, however. While Chibiterasu hugged her, she turned her attention to the idling little Poncle standing before his flying machine.
"Issun? Why do you not approach?" she asked. Chibiterasu looked over his shoulder at the Poncle, happiness clearly etched on his features.
He couldn't think of what to say. Should he say 'Hello'? What about 'How are you?' 'It's good to see you, Furball'?
Instead, he went with, "It seems like a family moment, is all."
She smiled warmly at him. How he missed that go-lucky attitude!
"It is," she said. She beckoned him forward with her muzzle, and again Issun found himself ready to cry. He approached at her request, and for the first time in a year, he made contact with the one he'd not hugged since they parted ways in the north.
She nuzzled him for the first time in a year, and a single tear fell from her eye.
"Welcome home, little ones."
A la fin to the max.
The Stuff You May Have Missed
- "And now I'm talking to myself" is a reference to Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare.
- The thing about the mad doctor training a somnambulist to murder for him is a reference to the 1920 German silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
- The bell being able to keep demons at bay is essentially the peace bell.
-Imagine the events of Okami and Okamiden taking place in the span of about 12 months.
Just a little ramble for Mother's Day. I had to get this out of my system, mushy though it was.
I don't really have much else to say about this one, other than I'm sorry you read it.
I'm fortunate not to have a Grandfather as obsessed with my art capabilities as Issun did in the game. I am incapable of drawing beyond stick figures.